The First Amendment is often hailed as the cornerstone of American pride and democracy — but it has been historically undermined and is often challenged even today. Athletes, despite being amongst the most prominent public figures in the United States, face constant pressureto hide their personal views and avoid acts of protests. In 2018, Laura Ingraham of Fox News made headlines when she told LeBron James to “shut up and dribble,” but she was not the first or last to express these sentiments.

At LMU, however, the women’s basketball team has taken a position that stands in direct contrast to many professional leagues, encouraging players to stand up for what they believe in. Through their new Social Justice Committee, players are advocating for issues they are passionate about, including mental health, racial justice and environmental reform. As part of the Loyolan’s annual First Amendment Week celebration, we are proud to present Speak Up and Dribble — a series highlighting and commending the efforts of the LMU women’s basketball team.

The Loyolan would like to thank coaches Charity Elliott and Emily Ben-Jumbo; director of basketball operations Daisy Feder; and LMU student-athletes: Ciera Ellington, Ariel Johnson, Haley Herdman, Khari Clark and Jasmine Jones. Loyolan staffers Chris Benis and Kacie Thielmann were responsible for the majority of the content, along with video producers Jesse Ray Payne and Owen Tait.

The project was supervised by Veronica Backer-Peral, Maddie Cindrich, Alyssa Story and Molly Box.

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"Shut up and dribble" has long been the thinking many have had about the intersection of sports and social justice. But we talked with members of the LMU women's basketball team about the power that their voices as athletes have.

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An emphasis on mental health becomes even more important when a team is struggling to tally victories. Athletes measure so much of their self-worth based on their performance, and who could blame them? They have their families, fans, scholarships and future careers to reference in the face of every bump in the road. “Basketball is a very hard sport," acknowledged Ellington. “It can be very draining. I know that in situations where the season isn’t going well, [mental health issues] can be even more harsh on people.”